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The art of telling your story:

In his book, Church Planting Movements, David Garrison tells the story of "John," who taught a group of thirty farmworkers how to tell their stories and encouraged them to tell their story to five people. After the first week, seventeen of the thirty had shared their story, but one farmer had shared with eleven people. So at the next class they encouraged one another by sharing their experiences and practiced telling their story again. After two months they had started twenty groups that were becoming churches. After seven months, that number grew to over three hundred groups and four thousand new believers. Just over a year later, nine hundred churches were meeting with more than twelve thousand new Christians.

This next series of blog posts will focus on key skills that we need within the house/simple/organic church context.

The ability to tell one's story is a powerful tool. Jesus often told people to tell the story of how he had touched them to others (eg Mark 5:18).

There are three occasions in the New Testament where Paul tells the story of how he met Jesus (Acts 22; Acts 26; Galatians 1). Each time, he uses the same pattern. He describes his life before he knew Jesus, he describes his conversion experience on the road to Damascus, and he tells what has happened since then.

Training others: A key skill for working with not-yet-believers is the ability to tell your story in non-religious language. It's an easy one to practice. Give people in your group a few minutes to think through the essential elements of their story, (what their life was like before Jesus intervened, how they met him and what has happened since) and then get them in pairs to practice. Each one should take only a few minutes, and the other member of the pair needs to stop them if ever they use religious language. Words such as salvation, redemption, even sin are taboo in this context. Each person should share. Then encourage them to find a natural context to tell their story during the coming week. Hopefully they are already praying for their not-yet-Christian friends, and these people would be a good to tell their story to.

As people get more practiced,  they develop stories for any situation. They meet someone who admits to financial problems. They can share: "I had a situation like that once… " and then they tell the story of how Jesus met their financial needs and they offer to pray with the person. Remember, we are looking to bring a person face-to-face with the God who meets people at their point of need. When prayer is answered, it's easy to present the message of the Kingdom.

The most important time for a person to tell his story to others is immediately after he has found the Lord, and this should be encouraged.

Key verse: 1 Peter 3:15  Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.

  Fish

10 more skills for equipping the saints

Tools 2
The function of the 5-fold ministry in Ephesians 4 is to equip the saints for the work of ministry. What is the ministry we are equipping them for? Expanding the Kingdom by making disciples, helping them to mature and equipping them to do the same for others.

In the one of the last posts we looked at 10 skills that you suggested are needed to equip the saints. Here are 10 more of my suggestions:

  1. Prayer
  2. Prayer walking
  3. Spiritual warfare and deliverance
  4. Spiritual gifts including healing the sick
  5. Finding a person of peace
  6. Luke 10 principles
  7. Finances
  8. Making disciples
  9. What is a church
  10. Reproducible patterns of meeting together

What else are we missing?

 

10 skills to equip others

Our friends in India, who are seeing hundreds of thousands of new believers each year, have various training topics with which they equip people, the majority of whom are oral learners. Everyone is equipped, and those who are in any kind of leadership are trained not only in the concepts, but also in how to train others too.
We in the West have a lot of head knowledge, but are we equipped? Last Friday, I posted on this subject, asking people to comment. One person said this:
"I once took a Saturday morning to teach people how to share their testimony and was shocked at how many long-time Christians were incapable of telling a coherent story about how they came to Jesus and why. The main problem, I found, was that they too often confused giving their life to Jesus with becoming a member of the church…"
 Many who have come out of legacy churches have been used to letting those in full-time ministry "do the stuff" as John Wimber used to say, referring to ministering to others, especially to not-yet-believers.  In simple/organic church there are no longer specially trained people with "doing the stuff" as their job description; it is now up to all of us. Are we ready? Do we know what to do?
In that post I also asked people to give some ideas on the various skills that we need to equip people with here in the West. Here is a compilation of the results:
  1. How to proclaim the Gospel
  2. How to share your story with others
  3. How to lead someone to the Lord
  4. Interacting with God's word
  5. The need for accountability
  6. How to wait on God
  7. How to share your faith in a less friendly environment
  8. The centrality of Jesus
  9. Listening to the Holy Spirit and obeying
  10. The fruit of the Spirit

I have several more topics for the toolbox that I will share soon.

Toolbox

Teaching or equipping? Are we giving people tools they can use?

ToolsWe are currently part of a fairly new simple church with about 30% new believers. The other evening, one of them mentioned that a friend had approached him to find out more about his faith. As we discussed how he might handle the situation, it became apparent that only a few of those present had any idea of how to present the Gospel in a relevant way to lead someone else to Christ. We spent much of that evening and our next gathering working on this and practicing in pairs how to handle an opportunity to share our faith.

Ephesians 4 says that the five-fold ministry is to equip the saints for the work of ministry. Do we give people tools they can use in their daily lives to make an impact for the Kingdom of God?

Our friends in India who are dealing with tens of thousands of new believers have a teaching manual with around 50 topics. Each topic has 8-10 major points supported by several Bible verses. These topics are taught in such a way that ordinary people can remember them, put them into practice, and train others.

We do not live in India.  Many simple churches are filled with mature believers, but are they equipped with practical skills? Or do they just have intellectual/spiritual knowledge about various Biblical  subjects?

Is there a difference between teaching and equipping? I'm not saying that teaching is not important (and this is not a discussion on how teaching happens). But are people being equipped?

During our student days, the Christian group we were part of was trained in all kinds of practical skills. We were trained in personal evangelism by groups such as Campus Crusade, going out onto the streets to witness and lead people to Christ. We learned the Navigators Topical Memory System (a system of learning by heart more than 100 verses). Tony and I went through a training course on how to heal the sick, how to pray for deliverance, how to pray for someone to be filled with the Holy Spirit etc. It was a series of spiritual skills with a practical impact.

My question is, what topics would be covered in a Western manual that equipped people with spiritual skills? I've mentioned a few. What others can you come up with?

 

How illiterate women in India can teach advanced topics

Indian woman

A few posts ago, I alluded to the fact that some good friends of ours in India, who see many tens of thousands of new believers in their network each year, have illiterate women who are able to teach others, including Bible references. Several people have asked me to expand on this.

The fact that someone is an oral learner doens't make them ignorant or incapable of understanding. They just have a different way of learning. Much as today, in our culture, many young people learn by watching rather than by reading.

Each of the 50 or so topics that our friends expect their leaders to be able to teach on to others is divided down into 9 or 10 main points. Training is given several times per year. There are different levels at which a person is able to understand and impart any given topic. So a house church leader will have a very basic understanding. He/she may know several strategic points about any given topic. A local area trainer will have more understanding, probably with some references. By the time you have a master trainer who is responsible for training on a regional or national basis, they will know the topic fully, including all relevent references.

This happens because of the way a topic is taught. The trainer may speak on the topic, but by using questions and answers and making others repeat what is taught, people remember the subject matter. They are also expected to apply it or put it into practice. When they in turn pass it on to others, it becomes even more firmly fixed in their minds.

Here are a few of the topics that are taught:

The Great Commission

What is church?

God's will and purposes

Persecution

Tenfold functions of the church

Baptism

The role of women

Prayer walking: ten steps

Spiritual warfare

If people in our churches had the same grasp of these subjects at a practical as well as a theoretical level as some of these illiterate village women, we would be far more effective within the Kingdom. Now obviously, we are able to read the Bible–there is no shortage of Bibles in the West.  But there is a difference between learning with the purpose of extending the Kingdom and studying for personal blessing. Maybe we should reconsider strategic training.

Upside-down leadership: a parable

A few years back, we had a 3-day meeting where about 40 of us gathered to listen to God. They were strong leaders from across the nation. Most of the time, the type-A personalities, seated on the inner row of 2 concentric circles of chairs, dominated vocally. The quieter ones sat on the back row.

On the last afternoon, as we waited on God, we sensed him telling us to switch rows–those on the inner circle moved to the back row and vice versa. The quieter ones, now the inner circle, spoke. What amazing wisdom flowed as they shared.

Then God spoke to us.

"You have turned the room upside-down. If you will turn leadership upside-down in the same way that you have turned this room upside-down, Christians will again turn the world upside-down!"

Our son, Tim, has produced an outstanding video on what upside-down leadership looks like: 

Upside-Down Leadership from simplechurch.com on Vimeo.

 

 

Servant leaders?

One day, Jesus' disciples were squabbling over which of them was the greatest. In fact, two brothers, James and John, had persuaded their mother to ask Jesus if they could have privileged positions in his Kingdom. The other disciples were indignant; they wanted those positions for themselves!

Matthew 20:25-28 continues: 

But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” 

We know how leadership works in the world. It's hierarchical. Whether you're talking about government or the army, industry or education, the world's way of leadership is based on a hierarchical model.

Jesus said we shouldn't do it that way. So what have we done throughout history in the church? We've built a hierarchy–bishops and senior pastors, vicars and denominational superintendents. 

What does it look like for leadership to be servant and slave? Jesus demonstrated it for us when he washed his disciples feet.

Ross Rohde wrote a thought-provoking post on his blog recently (http://bit.ly/fsOAur)

Do we aspire to leadership or servanthood?

Shoe shiner

 

 

 

Who leads your church?

A.W. Tozer wrote this:

"The God of the modern evangelical rarely astonishes anybody. He manages to stay pretty much within the constitution. Never breaks our bylaws. He's a very well-behaved God and very denominational and very much one of us, and we ask Him to help us when we're in trouble and look to Him to watch over us when we're asleep. The God of the modern evangelical isn't a God I could have much respect for, but when the Holy Ghost shows us God as He is, we admire Him to the point of wonder and delight." (The Quotable Tozer) 

Here's what Paul said:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. (Col 1:15-18)

Who leads your church?

We can ask God to bless our plans, our programs, our vision. Or we can join God in what he is doing, following where he leads us, responsive to his every whisper.

Let's make "Jesus, head of his church" a practical reality.  

What is God’s leadership training like?

The leaders God is looking for are very different to the leadership the world is looking for.

God is looking for those who walk with a limp; those who, like Jacob, have surrendered unconditionally to God. He's looking for those who have been through his wilderness training school, educated in the college of hard knocks and disappointment, graduated from the seminary of insignificance on the backside of the desert. 

God is looking for those who are dead to their own ambitions, crucified to any desire for limelight and public praise. They have nailed to the cross their own agendas and ministries. They have no need to control. They are willing to go unrecognized, to be of no consequence in the world. They are looking for ways to lay down their lives for others.

Wolfgang Simson describes these leaders as "weeping fathers and mothers, longing for their sons and daughters to overtake them.

These are the men and women God trusts to lead others.

 

 

What do we expect of our leaders?

God's ways are not our ways.

People like their leaders to be like King Saul–head and shoulders above everyone else. They like them to be charismatic, outgoing, well qualified. To have university degrees, communicate persuasively, lead convincingly.  Leaders are to be out front, envisioning and inspiring, with larger-than-life personalities.

Taller sunflower

In the church at large, we are no different. We place pastors on a pedestal. Our pastors are expected to have seminary degrees, to have no personal problems and perfectly behaved children. They receive God's vision for their church. They are expected to deliver inspiring sermons, to personally look after their flock, to attract new people to the church.

Small wonder they are burned out and many are leaving the ministry. We've applied the world's standards to an impossible task.

God never intended it to be that way.

 

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